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There are many versions of the legend of the Fragrant Concubine.
It is true that in 1760 the Chinese Emperor Qianlong conquered Turkestan and that a Muslim woman from that region was sent to the Forbidden City as his concubine. It seems she was something of a favourite, being promoted twice and given many gifts.
But other stories have grown up around her.
In China they say that her body emitted an irresistible natural fragrance and the Emperor was besotted with her. She was homesick, but he gave her many gifts to remind her of home and at last she fell in love with him and they lived happily ever after.
But in her homeland they say that the woman was named Iparhan and born to a family of rebels. Brought to court by force, she kept daggers hidden in her sleeves to protect her honour. At last she took her own life rather than submit to the Emperor’s desire for her.
I found myself wondering which woman was the real Fragrant Concubine. Which ending was true: the sad one or the happy one?
This novel is about what might have happened.
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Available as a paperback and eBook
Longlisted for the Mslexia Novel Competition 2015
Longlisted for the HNS Indie Award
Editor’s Choice book reviewed by the Historical Novel Society: I enjoyed the human drama, the love and hurt, the scheming for revenge, rivalries and loyalties in the Forbidden City. Reading this novel was a moving and wonderful excursion into a different time.
Given a ‘Discovered Diamond‘ review and then made Book of the Month for February 2017 on the Discovering Diamonds historical fiction blog.
5-star reviews on Amazon described it as:
A passionate story, richly imagined in the spaces of real history. Melissa Addey meticulously evokes a strange, beautiful and harsh society. Emma Darwin, award-winning author of The Mathematics of Love and A Secret Alchemy.
Melissa Addey has given us a new take on the cherished but controversial legend of ‘the Fragrant Concubine,’ one that weaves together the many conflicting versions of the story and plausibly embraces how romance might have blossomed between the brilliant Manchu monarch and his fragrant Muslim consort. Professor James Millward, author of A Uyghur Muslim in Qianlong’s Court: The Meanings of the Fragrant Concubine
The Fragrant Concubine has also been reviewed by:
Jessica Morley’s Blog:(The Fragrant Concubine) compelled me to learn more about the background history of the story after I finished reading, and I discovered that (Addey) had stayed faithful to the legend of the “fragrant concubine” and the history of 1760’s China while using her own artistic license to tell her interpretation of the events. It was certainly a page-turner and I very much enjoyed it.
A Comfy Chair: This book was intoxicating, and was hard to put down… A fantastic, incredible historical fiction…Melissa has the ability to capture her audience and keep them there till the book is over.
The Historical Novel Review: I love historical fiction that can take me on a journey to a different time and place. A fascinating, dangerous story that captured and held my attention throughout.
A Bookish Affair: The setting was especially captivating to me…